Saidi Balogun is an house-hold name in Nigeria, being a very popular figure in the nation’s movie industry. He is no doubt one of the most familiar faces in the movie industry in Nigeria.
But like many other mysteries that trail fame, he Mr Balogun has a big dossier of activities in and outside the industry, trailed by a trailer loads of stories.
In this exclusive interview, he speaks with ‘NONYE BEN-NWANKWO about his career, his low periods, his immediate future plans and what his ex-wife, Fathia, must do if she wants to keep Balogun as her surname.
You once said you were going to do a two-cast movie. Did you eventually do it?
I did a two-cast, Mo dupe Temi, in Yoruba. I did another one in English. It is titled You or I? It is yet to be released. I wanted to get it across the border. Again, the film is also in audio.
Is that really possible?
Oh yes! Some people asked the same question before the movie came out.
How come you are always coming up with such ideas?
The people who buy our movies are not fools. We should be creative in this country. We should think deep and be vast.
How did this idea of a two-cast movie come about?
One day, I was sitting down and a good friend of mine inspired me. He asked me about my goal and I told him I wanted to break records. I sat down and I thought of it and went to work.
But would you rate the movie a commercial success?
At the beginning, the marketing was very slow. But it has been settled now. The movie has taken me to where I wanted. I made a statement. I became the first to do a two-cast movie in Nigeria, if not in Africa. Till kingdom comes, my name will be written as the first to achieve that.
How come the movie is yet to win any award, as novel as the idea is?
That is a comical thing. I have won only one award with it. It won an award outside Nigeria, but in the country where the movie was made, it is yet to win any award. Where are we going in this country? Anyway, those who give awards in this country will soon get there. They are not there yet. Don‘t let us dwell on that.
Now that you have set the record of a two-cast movie, are your dreaming of another idea?
Oh yes. I am doing another movie titled Ankara. The movie was shot in America. Everybody in the movie wore Ankara. You have to think differently. Kate Henshaw stole the show in the movie. She gave me the depth of acting anybody could think of. Thank God for companies like Unilever and Lupcon. They gave us some support. People said they had gone to Lupcon, but they were not given any support. But I tell them that if they give somebody a good product, the person will support them. I have just finished a one-cast movie as well.
Did you say one-cast? That would be boring…
No way! I did it. And it is not like newscasting or a documentary. It is a movie. I am sick of doing movies that are not challenging. You have to encourage those who think deep. Don‘t encourage the noise makers.
How come you have not been doing much of English movies?
I have just done one apart from You and I. It is called The Rider. It is a comedy. But then, a movie has no language. If you can watch an Indian movie that is not subtitled and yet you find it interesting, you can watch any movie not minding the language.
Since you had an accident, you seem to have become more successful in your career. Will it be wrong to say that the accident enhanced your growth?
No and yes.
What do you mean?
No in the sense that I have always had my goal and target. The Managing Director of Lupcon told me about five years ago to set a target for myself. I set the target before the accident. The accident drew me back a little. But then, I didn‘t allow anything to distract me. I had to remain focused.
But you seem to be associated with a lot of scandals. How come you are still able to rise above the scandals?
I live by that grace and the grace of Almighty God. I was chosen to be great. I cannot deviate from that. I don‘t allow scandals to affect me. I see myself as a white cloth in the dark. Can you put a white cloth in the dark and you will not see it? No way! Am I the only actor who is divorced? No!
A story just broke about you and one actress. They said your ex-wife was fighting the actress because of you.
I heard of it. One magazine even published it. But what can I do? I cannot fight them. In the past four years, one story or the other has been written about me every week.
Are you saying the two women are not fighting over you?
I want to see money fighting over me. I still thank God Almighty. If you are walking on the streets and some people are talking about you, you have to thank God. There are people who are running but nobody is looking at them. I have left people who talk and write what they want about me. But my plea is that they should verify first. If I were to sue people, I would be living in the court. One magazine went to the extent of writing my house address when my car was stolen. Is he not inviting thieves to come and finish the job?
Have you seen your car?
No. It is still hanging.
So what are you using now?
Okada. If they steal my car, do you expect me to be riding planes?
But we learnt you bought a car for a woman.
How can? When I have not replaced the one that was stolen? I don chop? Where I see that kin money? It is not possible. I have gone to the police again to ask them how far they have gone in search of my car. They told me not to worry. Okay-o. I am launching Etiketa on Sept. 26. I want to launch it with the recovery of my car. That is the donation I want the police to give me. Let them help me to recover my car. But now, okada riders are enjoying my patronage. I am enjoying it as well. The breeze on okada is better that air condition.
So, you don’t feel bad riding okada?
Hypertension will kill you if you start feeling bad. The Lord said you should take it as it comes. Let the guy that is eating gold today get prepared for brass. I take things the way they come. I am a simple guy. I walk on the streets. I eat amala in the buka. I am who I am.
You once told us that you were in one relationship. Is it no longer working?
You see, you have started asking about my private life. I told you I am a white cloth. My car was snatched in Oshodi. Another one was snatched in Idumota. I am now alone. I beg, don‘t allow anybody to snatch me as well. Leave my relationship alone for now.
The Yoruba movie industry seems to be divided. Which faction do you belong to?
Nigerians make the crises. I can wake up tomorrow and form my own association. When there is a central law guiding us, I cannot just wake up and form my own association. The Yoruba have their own guild, the English have their own and the Arewa have their own. Which one do you want the government to associate with? Let us try and do things right.
Do you feature in other producers movies or you feature in your movies alone?
I act for producers who are good.
Would you act with your ex-wife on the same set?
If the bill is good, I will do so. Those days, in the beginning, I used to say no for one reason or the other. But now, money is good. If you put the two of us together, don‘t you think it will make noise? Just put the right bill on the table put the money down and I will do the movie with her. She is my ex. As for my name that she is still answering, the deed will be done soon. The Nigerian law says that after three or four years, you can do something about it. If somebody wants to keep my name, what of the new person coming in? This has nothing to do with grudges.
Are you saying she cannot keep your name?
She can if the bill is right. How many wives do you want to keep my name? How many wives does the Nigerian law permit us to marry at a time? What does the Nigerian law say about that?
But there is this female politician who divorced her husband and still kept her husband‘s name, though the man is dead.
Okay, kill me so that you will keep my name.
Do you regret the break-up of your marriage?
Do I look like somebody who is suffering? When God says yes, nobody can say no. I am happy in the Lord. Great men don‘t stay alone at times. If one door spoils, you remove it and put a better one. I respect women a lot. Remi Adiukwu-Bakere will kill me if I abuse or fight any woman. She will not find it funny.
You seem to like Adiukwu-Bakare a lot. You are always talking about her.
Oh yes. I like her and her husband a whole lot. Four years ago when I left the hospital and the person who I felt was the back of my bone went away with the same man that sent me on the errand that caused the accident, I would have died. But the Bakares were there. They talked to me and nurtured me. I will not forget them, for they were God sent. When I had the accident, the first two weeks, I was not normal. I was insane. I was a walking corpse. Why won‘t I say thank you to these people?
How were you able to survive?
I have advisers. Remi Adiukwu said she wanted to run the governorship race. She kept me busy. I was everywhere campaigning for her. After the campaign, the husband told me that he and his wife deliberately kept me busy. I was not myself, so they decided to keep me busy. But today, I am over them. Jani Ibrahim, the Managing Director of Lupcon told me to leave woman matter alone and face my job. These are the people that stood by me.
Are you on talking terms with your ex?
That is private. My best love now is business.
Are you not going to marry again?
I told you I am now married to my business. There is love in my life now. Our good Lord said that before the end of the world, eight women will cling to one man. Why then should I die because of one woman?
Will you ever marry an actress again?
Why not? Is it because they are in the limelight? If you have four boyfriends now, nobody will say anything. Who knows you? But let an actress try it; everybody will explode. I can marry an actress if the person is the right one God has chosen for me.